June 10, 2013

"Limping on his thigh"

That is how the patriarch Jacob carried on with life (Genesis 32.31) after meeting with God one night, and wrestling with Him until dawn – “limping on his thigh.” During the wrestling match, God had touched Jacob’s hip, dislocating it … presumably so that Jacob would know who was man, and who was God. Yes, at the end of it all, the Lord blessed Jacob … but He also broke Jacob. Jacob came away with a new name, and a new life … but also with a limp. And so it always is, said Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones from Genesis 32, with those who have come face-to-face with God. ‘How do you know you have met with God?’ the doctor asked. ‘You limp.’

I find that to be a profound insight – surely drawn, not only from the illustration of Genesis 32, but from observation of the saints as well. Those who have truly met God are humbled. They no longer walk with their chests as far out as before. Their self-assurance has been met with the reality of their helplessness in sin and their frailty before a holy God. And so, spiritually speaking, they walk with a limp. They have been mercifully crippled by the reality of their sin and smallness … so that they will no longer rush ahead of God in their pride and self-confidence. Christians – those who have truly met God in Christ – come away with a limp. Thank you, Dr. Lloyd-Jones, for pointing out such a helpful illustration of the Christian life from Genesis 32!

But it occurs to me, in recent days, that that initial limp; that initial humbling; that initial touching of the hip that occurs when we first come to Christ is often not the only humbling that we need … nor the only time that God touches the hips of His beloved people. We may find ourselves wrestling with God many times over the course of our journey to the celestial city. The Father’s discipline for our sin; periods of great trial, or pain, or discouragement, or fear; grief and loss – all of these can be seasons of wrestling. And in each case, though God graciously brings us through … we may come out of the wrestling match with a limp; with an indelible reminder of our weakness, and our need to be trained by the Father’s wise hand. When temptations or trials or terrors overcome us, we are reminded again of just how fragile is our frame; and how broken is our world. And, in many cases, we are never quite the same again. We go on our way, limping on our thigh.

But is that a bad thing? Not if God is the one who has touched our hips! For surely a God-given limp is better than a carefree stroll over the cliff-edge of sin! Surely it is better to realize our frailty than to carry on with a false sense of security. And the limp does that for us. It keeps us sober, humble, dependent. The limp reminds us of how much we still need God, even after the struggle. Like Paul’s thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12), it keeps us relying upon God’s grace, not our own ability. So thank God when He gets you through a season of trial or wrestling of soul. But don’t begrudge the limp that may remain.

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